July 2007 Archives

July 31, 2007

iTunes Miniatures playlist

Back in 1980, Morgan Fisher curated an album called "Miniatures". It consisted of fifty-one tiny tracks by various artists including people like Kevin Coyne, Michael Nyman, Ivor Cutler and Robert Fripp. Everything on the album was under a minute long I've recently hit upon the modern digital DIY equivalent - making a microtunes "Miniatures" playlist on iTunes - although I did have to extend the time limit slightly. I sorted my music library by track duration, shortest first, and the...
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July 30, 2007

Sense of humour failure as my iPlayer comment is re-written by The Telegraph

Over the last couple of months I've been very impressed with the development of The Telegraph's site, particularly their user engagement and blogging. I've signed up to the My Telegraph service, and was just actually going to set up my My Telegraph space properly today, when all that good work by the paper so far came to a shuddering halt. When I logged into my page I saw a list of my recent comments on The Telegraph site. At the...
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Grade 'F' all round for British newspaper homepages on YSlow

Last week the Yahoo! Developers Network released a Firefox add-on called YSlow. It combines with the fantastic Firebug add-on to allow you to assess a web page against Yahoo!'s 13 criteria for delivering a really fast scalable web service. I thought it might be interesting to benchmark British newspaper homepages against the YSlow performance metrics, to see how well they performed. Some of the technical solutions that Yahoo! recommend require significant investment in infrastructure. I suspect most newspaper editors in...
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July 29, 2007

A tour of Tour De France news sites - Général Classement

Over the last week, as the Tour De France has been reaching its drug-tainted climax, I have been reviewing online sites for the depth, quality and usability of their coverage. I've looked at the offical LeTour.fr site, the Yahoo! / Eurosport portal, The Guardian and The Telegraph, France 24 and BBC Sport. I've also looked at sites like CNN, The Independent and The Times where I expected to find in-depth coverage but didn't. Unlike today's finish on the Champs-Élysées, when...
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July 28, 2007

ITV advertise using the keyword 'iPlayer' on Google and Yahoo!

Well, here's one amusing thing that I didn't predict about the day of the BBC's iPlayer software launch. Early yesterday morning, ITV - or someone making mischief on their behalf - were buying up keywords on Google and Yahoo! related to the BBC iPlayer, to trumpet their own streaming on demand service. Boasting that there was no software to download, there seemed to be two or three variations of the advert, which stopped appearing around lunchtime. Some BBC properties, like...
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A tour of Tour De France news sites - Abandons: CNN, The Times and The Independent

Since my exposure to live coverage of the Tour De France in Greece has been restricted to occasionally popping down to a nearby bar which shows Eurosport on satellite, I've mostly been following the now drugs-tainted 2007 edition on the internet. This week I've been reviewing the sites that I have been using, and have so far looked at the official site, state and semi-state broadcasters France 24 and The BBC, The Guardian, The Telegraph, and Eurosport's online partnership with...
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July 27, 2007

A tour of Tour De France news sites - Étape 6: The Telegraph

I've mostly been following the Tour De France this year via the internet, and so during this week I've been reviewing a variety of news sites for the depth, quality and usability of their online converage. So far I've looked at the offical LeTour.fr site, the new Eurosport / Yahoo! sport portal, The Guardian, France 24 and BBC Sport. The Telegraph has been promoting their coverage online using Google AdWords to sidetrack people searching for "Tour De France" The race...
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July 26, 2007

A tour of Tour De France news sites - Étape 5: Eurosport / Yahoo!

Like the majority of cycling fans, I have been watching this week's events in the Tour De France unfold with dismay. Most other weeks, someone claiming to be from ETA letting bombs off on the route would be a major story, but yesterday with the expulsion of yellow jersey wearer Michael Rasmussen and the exclusion of the Cofidis team, that hardly seemed to matter. Of course, there is an argument that says that out of the couple of hundred...
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July 25, 2007

A tour of Tour De France news sites - Étape 4: The Guardian

Whilst the Tour De France has been taking place over the last couple of weeks I have mostly been following it online - whether it has been good news or bad - and so this week I have been reviewing a variety of the sites I have visted to assess the quality, depth and usability of their coverage. So far I've looked at the offical LeTour.fr site, France 24 and BBC Sport. I have also been following the 2007 Tour...
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A tour of Tour De France news sites - Étape 3: France 24

Sadly it seems that again this year it will be events off the road that dominate the headlines about the Tour De France. The blood doping allegations against Alexandre Vinokourov may have briefly made him the world's most famous Kazakhstani, even over Borat, but they are yet another blow to the reputation of cycling's most prestigous event. Over the course of this week I have been reviewing online news sites for the usability, depth, and quality of their Tour De...
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July 24, 2007

Back at the BBC (slight return)

Tomorrow will be quite an odd day, since, all being well, for the first time in 18 months I will be commuting from East London to West London, to the BBC's offices in White City, to sit down at my new desk in my old office. And putting up with the genius decision of returning to London just as the Victoria Line starts going to bed early. It is just a brief return though, working on one specific project. In...
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A tour of Tour De France news sites - Étape 2: BBC Sport

With limited access to watching the Tour De France on television in Greece, I've been restricted to using the internet to follow cycling's biggest annual event. As I've done so, I've been reviewing the sites I've been visiting for the features they offer, the depth of their coverage and their usability. So far I've looked at LeTour.fr, the official site of the Tour De France. The BBC's Cycling coverage falls under their 'Other Sports' section, and it is obvious that...
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July 23, 2007

A tour of Tour De France news sites - Étape 1: LeTour.fr

This week I'm looking at the usability, depth and quality of news coverage of the Tour De France on the internet. The obvious place to start my tour of Tour De France website coverage, is with the official site of the race itself - letour.fr. The site comes in four languages (English, German and Spanish as well as the obvious) During the course of a stage, the homepage turns into one giant web dashboard of stats, facts, figures and news....
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A tour of Tour De France news sites - Prologue

I first got interested in watching the Tour De France purely and simply because of Kraftwerk. They originally had a hit single about the race during the early 1980s. Then, rather out of the blue, they released their first album of brand new material for nearly 20 years in 2003, the cycling themed 'Tour De France Soundtracks'. A couple of weeks before it was released you could listen to the album via streaming on the BBC's Music site, and I...
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July 20, 2007

BBCi Toolbar for Internet Explorer - 2002 style

One of the things that has interested me in recently putting together OpenSearch plugins and Google Toolbar custom buttons for BBC and newspaper related searches, is the change in the nature of web development they represent over the last few years. I've been able to make all of these, with no official permission, in just a few hours, by stringing some XML together into a bunch of text files. They all seem to work fine so far. By contrast, one...
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The Telegraph puts BBC Executives in an assassin's gun sights

Since doing my sweeping review of British newspaper websites earlier in the year, I've found myself returning more and more to The Telegraph's site. They have a lively line-up of bloggers, and they've been doing a lot to encourage user-generated content from their readers, which I've enjoyed. In fact, I suspect that this may translate into a couple of physical sales for the printed edition next week when I'm in the UK. They've gone to town a bit today in...
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Dell's "green" linking quirks

Yesterday I was online buying a new battery for my Dell laptop. Now, I know that what I actually need is a whole new laptop, but in the short-term picking up a fresh battery that lasts more than 45 minutes when I'm out and about will keep me going in internet cafes in Crete for a bit longer. As I went through the Dell purchase process, I saw something that I've never seen before on the web. And I don't...
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July 19, 2007

"Show must go on" culture at the BBC more to blame for errors than a calculating culture of deceit

In all my time working at the BBC there was never anything as high-pressured, stressful, or as worrying as having an application with a 'TX critical' deadline - meaning that it had to go live and work at the appointed moment that it was mentioned in the broadcast stream. Software updates could be put back, new content publishing could be delayed, whole website launches could be shelved, as long as it wasn't going to be mentioned on TV or Radio....
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The BBC regrets the error - what about you lot?

Those 1980s Stourbridge Grebo rockers were nearly right, but it wasn't pop that was going to eat itself, it was the UK media - judging by today's feeding frenzy of disapproval at the revelation of more audience deceit by the BBC over phone-in competitions. Just a thought - as everyone sits down to pen or typewrite or word-process or feather quill their scathing op-ed pieces for the weekend press, perhaps they'd like to have a cursory look through the list...
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Google Toolbar buttons for British newspapers including headline feeds

Download custom Google Toolbar buttons for British Newspapers A couple of weeks ago I made available a whole series of OpenSearch plugins for British newspaper sites which would work in Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2. The XML files used to produce these are only a hop, skip and a jump away from the XML required to make a custom button for the Google Toolbar, so I have now made custom Google Toolbar buttons for the major British newspapers....
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July 18, 2007

Chicago Tribune front page adverts a throwback to the past

I spotted an article by Alicia Dorr on The Chicagoist website today, because she used one of the images from currybetdotnet - my picture of The Mirror's "The Filth and The Fury!" frontpage from the British Library's Front Page exhibition, which is my favourite newspaper front page of all time. Her post - "Boo! Hiss!" is lamenting the decision by the Tribune Company to introduce advertising on the front pages of their newspaper properties, which includes the Chicago Tribune. Editorial...
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George Galloway speared by Diamond Geezer

Not literally, unfortunately, but, in a withering blog post today my favourite hometown blogger Diamond Geezer absolutely speared George Galloway. He is Diamond Geezer's MP, and so he writes about the impact that Galloway's 18 day suspension from the House of Commons is going to have on his constituents. The answer appears to be...well...just about business as usual. Using the voting records from Public Whip and the speaking records from TheyWorkForYou, Diamond Geezer assesses the notorious self-publicist's recent contributions to...
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Kontera's non-existent approach to email security

Every now and again I get approached by people wanting to place their advertisements on currybetdotnet. Sometimes these are people targeting getting a text link on one particular page, and at other times these are people wanting me to try out their entire advertising system. As a general rule I always decline. The Google AdSense blocks on these pages pay for the hosting here, with enough of a surplus to pay for 'A lemon tree of our own' as well....
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July 17, 2007

BBC iPlayer launch: The first 14 days

With just ten days to go until the launch of the BBC's much anticipated iPlayer software, I thought I would gaze into my crystal ball and predict what the first two weeks hold for the software... Day #1: iPlayer launches Day #2: The press reports that the BBC website 'crashed' due to demand for the iPlayer, because someone emailed someone at The Telegraph saying they couldn't download it over their dial-up connection. A BBC 'source' is quoted as saying that...
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July 16, 2007

A very moral gambling u-turn - Daily Mail pulls gambling site?

The Daily Mail is against gambling. We all know that. They told us so in glowing moral terms last week. So, it must have been a little bit on the embarrassing side to suddenly read an article about the fact that their own branded online gambling site - MailBingo.com (who knew?) - failed to meet the best practice standards of advising people about 'sensible' gambling. If, of course, you believe there is such a thing. Cashcade, the company behind the...
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BBC related custom Google Toolbar buttons

Download BBC related custom buttons for the Google Toolbar A couple of weeks ago I made available a series of BBC related OpenSearch protocol plugins for Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2. It turned out that having generated the XML files to make these, it only required a couple of minor tweaks to turn them into custom buttons for the Google Toolbar. Since Google have implemented the same way of building buttons cross-platform, these should work on whichever browser...
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One Prince = c.100 People

Well Carol, as you say, there was an incident at 11,500 feet above Newbury in Berkshire, on the morning of Wednesday the 24th of March, and these details have been reported in the briefest of detail on the CAA website. It says, and I quote, "an aircraft proximity report has been filed". Now, this is a report I understand where safety was or could have been compromised. And this is an aircraft proximity report between a military aircraft and an...
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July 15, 2007

Tintin abuses the animals in the Congo as much as Hergé abuses the Africans

I'm a bit of a sucker for being a cult fanboy to be honest. Regular readers wil have noted this blog has a 'Doctor Who' category, and I'm also guilty of being into other fringe interests like Greg The Bunny, Buffy and Angel, The Magnetic Fields, David Sylvian, the latter years of Talk Talk, and so on. One cult that I adopted by osmosis was that of Tintin. I'm not a huge fan of comics graphic novels, but I have...
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Off with their heads!

Being outside the UK, I sometimes get a different and distorted persepctive on events that are going on back home - and the BBC / Queen 'huff' rumpus has been one of those stories where initially I got hold of the wrong end of the stick. As I understood the story, the BBC had broadcast a misleading documentary about the Queen, which told a deliberate lie to the nation about their Monarch. Then, when I read a bit more, I...
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July 13, 2007

'Cancel' just doesn't seem to mean 'Cancel' for iTunes 7.2 on Windows

I've mentioned before that I haven't exactly been seeing eye-to-eye with iTunes 7.2 on my PC. It keeps getting upset and sparking Windows error dialogue messages if I run it without my iPod attached first, and won't quit without warning me every single time that iSproggler is using the iTunes scripting interface, am I sure I want to quit? More seriously though, I don't like the way that Apple do not follow the standard Windows OS conventions with some of...
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July 12, 2007

National Television Awards vote seems wide open to multiple vote fraud

Like a good Doctor Who fan I was gently shepherded along by the Outpost Gallifrey site RSS feed this week to go and cast my vote for Freema, David and the series in the National Television Awards 2007 vote. It seems slightly early in the year to be handing out gongs, but there you go. There were a couple of things that struck me about the voting process itself - particularly with the announcement this week that the BBC has...
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July 11, 2007

British newspaper search plugins for Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2

Download British newspaper search plugins for Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2. A couple of weeks back I published a set of 15 different search plugins related to the BBC, that would work in either Internet Explorer 7 or Firefox 2. I've also produced a fairly comprehensive set of 28 29 search plugins covering the variations of search across the major British newspapers. I'm aware that plugins for some of these papers already exist. For example, the Daily Mail,...
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July 10, 2007

Why my Doctor Who blog failed: Part 6 - Enlightenment

Last week I published a series of posts looking at the failure of the Doctor Who site that I launched back in November 2003 - the Doctor Who Blog. Now the reason for writing up this catastrophic failure on my part into a series of articles wasn't to enjoy some public self-flagellation, or to render me unemployable in the future based on my past mistakes - although it may have achieved both of those aims! The joy of making...
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July 9, 2007

Rarer than hen's teeth - No football on the BBC Sport homepage

A bit of a sporting collectors item over the weekend on the BBC Sport website homepage. Thanks to the incredible array of global sporting events going on - most of which seemed to be taking place in England for some reason - there wasn't room for any football stories at all on the homepage on Saturday afternoon. With the F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone, England in action against the Windies in the cricket, the climax of Wimbledon, and the once-in-a-generation...
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July 6, 2007

What tickled me in the Daily Mail this week

I usually only follow the British press via their online versions, but generally once a week over here we treat ourselves to one print edition of one British newspaper. This week we were hanging around a place that didn't stock any broadsheets or ex-broadsheets, and so we ended up with a copy of Tuesday's Daily Mail, which they print over here in Greece. Despite all the breathless excitement I have for technological developments, there is still something rather nice about...
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Why my Doctor Who blog failed: Part 5 - Terminus

This week I've been writing about why my Doctor Who Blog site was less successful than the average Cyberman plan for an invasion of Earth. I've looked at the fact that the type of content I wanted to publish didn't suit the medium I chose, that I didn't market the site properly, and that I chose the wrong technology to underpin it. Today I want to look at another major problem - I had picked something too much like...
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A level playing field for the BBC on Google AdWords?

Marcus Warren wrote a piece in his Telegraph blog this week asking if the BBC can really be that cash-strapped if they can afford to place text adverts on Google for their online coverage of Wimbledon. Personally, I've never been particularly in favour of the BBC spending money on search engine marketing. My first job at the BBC was to promote BBC URLs to external search providers, and I remember strongly resisting overtures from both Yahoo! and LookSmart about paying...
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July 5, 2007

Why my Doctor Who blog failed: Part 4 - The Invisible Enemy

This week I've been writing about the reasons behind the total failure of my Doctor Who Blog site. Given the success of the show, and everything that I know abut product design, search engines and the internet, making a website based around it and generating traffic for that site ought to have been easy. However, rather like Leela trying to fit into Victorian London society during "The Talons of Weng Chiang", I somehow contrived to do nearly everything completely...
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July 4, 2007

Hopefully a free Alan Johnston will see the funny side

The internet has been buzzing today with the happy news that Alan Johnston has been freed. Well, it was happy news to almost everybody, although a few of the curmudgeons of Middle England crept out of their closets on the Daily Mail's site: "And now for the documentary and books etc..." - Dave, Leeds, UK "Isn't Mr. Blair claiming some credit?" - Dave, France "Call me a cynic, but what deal was done behind the scenes? If there was one...
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Why my Doctor Who blog failed: Part 3 - The New Adventures

I've been looking at the reasons behind the failure of my Doctor Who blog site. Given the high profile of the revived show in the UK, it should have been a resounding success - if it hadn't been for some rather poor decision making on my part. In the last part I looked at how the pace of publishing the content was very slow, since it was dictated by the transmission schedule of the original series of the show....
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July 3, 2007

Why my Doctor Who blog failed: Part 2 - The Long Game

A few years ago, back when Christopher Eccleston's Northern accented Doctor Who was just a gleam in Russell T. Davies' eye, I set up a site dedicated to my fanboy obsession with the show - doctorwhoblog.net. Rather than being a straight forward episode guide, it set out to collect the contemporania and ephemera around the transmission of stories from the original series. And it was a complete and utter failure. This week I'm looking at the four principle reasons...
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July 2, 2007

Why my Doctor Who blog failed: Part 1 - The Greatest Show In The Galaxy

Back in December 2006 David Jennings posted a thoughtful piece about his "69 Love Songs" wiki. In it, he stated what he thought had gone wrong with it, and what had stopped it from being being a success. "Two years ago I created a wiki site about 69 Love Songs, my favourite album. I had in mind an evolving resource where people would add new perspectives on each song, so that it would grow in time to become a...
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